072:365 Think 3 Steps Ahead

072:365 Think 3 Steps Ahead

072:365 Think 3 Steps Ahead
This morning, despite Monday’s brief foray into shorts-weather, there was nearly an inch of snow on the ground when I went out the door. Although it was barely an inch, it was more slippery than some of the piles of snow we got in February, maybe because it is a little warmer outside and so it melts and re-freezes as you drive on it.

After my morning errands, I arrived home and decided to walk in the bright cold air to get us some coffee and donuts. I realized that I haven’t taken many snow-photos, so I snapped a few.

So much for an early spring!

Then on the way back, one patch of sidewalk had been un-trampled and I decided to do a playful photo of my footsteps being laid out before me. Of course it is a simple photo to take, you just jump off your footprints, walk around the outside of where you’re going to frame the photo, and then snap it. But it adds a touch of surprise since the footsteps usually go behind the person, not vice versa.

And it got me thinking about how people make plans, play games, run politics. It’s almost as if we think we can know what the next three steps are in life. But it isn’t like chess, which already has a lot of permutations of moves, in life, there are so many ways of being that who we were and who we are do not predict who we will become as people.

Making the choice of studying to be an artist or an engineer; a lawyer or a novelist, changes the possible outcomes to an extent because in a world as big as ours, having qualifications is extremely important.

But I have a friend who has an engineering and a law degree who works as a circus artist and teacher. And I have an art degree, but am currently making the most money from the little bit of computer-geekiness at manipulating data and light coding that I’ve accrued by osmosis and necessity. Even my father, who speaks several languages and graduated with English and Russian majors, didn’t work in his fields of study until retirement, now publishing articles, teaching, and researching.

And those are only the very concrete things that make us who we are. How we treat other people, how we choose to react to problems, and how we are able to solve daily problems are a whole other field of being that qualifications say nothing about on paper. We may guess that a person who is good at engineering will have a neat house, or that a lawyer likes to argue, but I’ve met messy engineers and reserved lawyers.

When I was twenty, I knew who I was. It was a certainty that I had defined. Allida is this, she isn’t that. But in the last several years, choices and opportunities have come that changed my direction. I’ve met and got along with the kinds people who I always thought hated me. I’m more flexible and stronger than I thought, and though life has been difficult sometimes, I now feel a graceful balance at the core of myself. It was always there, but now I feel it more deeply.

But now, seeing all the choices ahead of me; all the steps that show the way forward in the snowy sidewalk of life, I’m not sure of myself. Those three steps ahead seem to open up an infinite number of other steps in an infinite number of directions. There are limitations set down by the first step which will mar the snow. Perhaps I’m afraid that this next first step will limit the next three.

By now, I know that you can’t always go back, but with a little creativity, like the photo, you can get around things and get somewhere that seems impossible when you start.

070:365 Invisibility

070:365 Invisibility

Last night I decided that the results of my drawing project are usually better in the morning, and accordingly, since I woke up extra early, here’s an early drawing.

Stealth Cat
Since it’s a Gracie drawing, I’m not sure how much needs to be said. To keep the story clear, I accentuated certain colors and simplified some shapes, trying to keep the dynamic and framing of the original photograph.

The other problem if it can be called such, is that my phone doesn’t do well with red and blue, so the colors look a little more extreme in the photograph than in person. I almost like the photograph better, and even the drawing makes Gracie much more orange than he is in reality, so that he blends in better with the chair.

Sometimes, looking at Gracie sitting on his orange chair, trying to blend in, I think to myself, if only I could so deeply enter that feline state of suspension of disbelief, I might do better in life.

What I mean is, although I love being a six foot tall red-head who stands out in almost any crowd, many times I wish that believing that I blend in could make it so. When I was in school for costume design, the other students taking the same majors and minors were almost all other women, and almost all the same height. Although I wear the same or larger dress size as many of my women friends over the years, they think I’m much thinner than they are by virtue of my height. They are surprised when I don’t fit into their clothes because I’m too big.

Living in Spain, where it was obvious within minutes that not only did I look different, but that because I looked different, I was clearly from a different culture sounds at first like it would be more difficult than trying to fit in here, where everybody from all over the world can become an American.But in Spain, once they think you aren’t Spanish, and you happen to look like a guiri,* you can break all kinds of social norms without losing social status since they assign those quirks to your foreignness.

For Spaniards themselves, I should note, I don’t think it is that simple because they have an old culture with many invisible roots that put pressure on certain kinds of conformity.

Here, though, because we consider ourselves a “melting pot,” certain kinds of social norms that I could break in Spain get me ostracized.  This is partly because I’m a local, and I’m supposed to know when to wear what, and I’m not supposed to let myself seem smarter than other people, and being tall and thin automatically means that I must think I’m better than you, which I don’t feel at all.   Mostly I just feel awkward, even now that I’m not an uncoordinated adolescent who can’t shoot hoops.

But it is also because of the very thing that makes us a melting pot.  One of the reasons that people can “become” American is that we have homogenized our culture to the greatest (or least) common denominator.  What I mean is, you go to any part of the country right now, and you can find a Target, An Applebee’s, a McDonald’s, a Starbucks.  You can buy Kraft processed foods, Nestlé products, and often you can even use your “rewards” card from your home grocery store because we have created a consumer culture that makes it so that any Day’s Inn you go to anywhere in the country has the same comforter and prints hanging in the rooms.

This consumer culture is supported by our television, and increasingly by the former last haven of uniqueness, the internet.

Even “Geek” culture has been homogenized into belonging to a consumer class through the syndication of video games, different castes of operating systems, and the places people trek to, be they Burning Man, SXSW, or Silicon Beach.  None of this is entirely bad, it’s just that our “classless” society isn’t really, and even “Americans” don’t really belong as wholly to any of our social groups as we are cornered into believing.

These cultural flags we wear by consuming products that allow other people to place us by reading our clothing, tastes, etc… are being daily codified in our “social media” presence.

Not to sound like an old fogey or a holier-than-thou internet veteran, but I remember when internet communities were actually communities that we (the few participants) used to organize outings, share our personal lives, or try out new ideas.  But with the pervasiveness of “social” and “interactive” media, we have lost the freedom to be ourselves on the internet, instead being forced into branded monoculturization in order to maintain professional and personal distance from the strangers who surveil us.

Well, from Gracie’s dream of invisibility to my own, this has been a long rant this morning, and I have places to be, so that’s it for “mow.”

069:365 Flash

069:365 Flash

Today, this past week really, was a roller-coaster, so I wanted to do a drawing that showed motion abstractly.

The space on the picture plane is divided into stripes that are delineated horizontally with both varied and fixed bands of color to create an illusion of depth.

Vertically, the lines are organized in changing curves with strokes that go from almost vertical to horizontal along an imaginary point of rotation to create the illusion of a solid, if flexible object, like the folds in a skirt, traveling through space at a regular rate.

Though the drawing is made up mostly of lines, the blending of colors and the allowance of the paper to shine through in places are instrumental to the illusion of motion, if not so much depth.  By blending similar, but distinct colors, the contrast in each vertical stripe spins into the next related color, but stands out against the background, while the horizontal stripes create the illusion of light and shadow by using high-contrast without blending colors as much.

Further, the transparency of the colors chosen for the vertical stripes, which were layered on top of the more opaque colors of the horizontal stripes, allows the viewer to imagine that he is looking past them as they move rather than seeing them as a series of stationary objects that block the view of the receding space.

Though all this is dry and formal, because this is an almost purely formal drawing, all artists think about how to show space and motion or stillness in their drawings.  All drawing, even figural work, is an abstraction because it is the attempt of the artist to put something they see or think about into a limited medium for others to see.  Whether those limitations are the 2 dimensions of the picture plane; 3 dimensions of a sculpture or installation; or more dimensions of temporal and performative artworks, whatever the artist sees cannot be directly communicated, and even the choice of medium influences who hears the message and how it is interpreted.

I should write more about this, but I’m falling short tonight.  Maybe the next time I’ll play around with this idea some more.

066:365 Clouds

Ypsi in the morning

Today another drawing from a photo, attempting in a slightly abstract way, to capture the glow and the shadow of a bright midwestern morning.

066:365 Clouds

The dynamic nature of clouds, the surface of water, and the motion of cloth along the body are fascinating. They are hard to see, hard to transcribe. Maybe that is why as I get older, abstraction in thought and in form attract me more.

Why do people make art? What are we seeking?

Maybe these almost epistemological questions are why we keep making art. We keep making visual representations of things real and imagined to figure out why we make abstractions of what we see and feel in much the same way that we keep writing about perception, society, and cosmos; biology, mathematics, and physics.

Seeking is perhaps the answer to its own question, as the oft-repeated adage: Life is a journey, not a destination.

053:365 Recessional

053:365 Recessional

When I was small, maybe 7 or 8 years old, I remember my dad trying to teach me how to draw a box in perspective.  He drew one box on top of another box, attached some lines and then erased others.  Now, the idea of lines creating a recession of space makes perfect sense to me, but my 8 year old self thought it was magical.

When I lived in Madrid, one Sunday morning, during the free hours, I went and saw the last day of a retrospective on the work of Pablo Palazuelo.  Looking at the way he layered lines to create superimposed imaginary spaces made me feel like I was small again.  Here were paintings that created a sense of vertigo with their contrasting colors and broken cubes.

For a long time Abstract Art had no pull for me, but now, the contemplation of space and imagination opens whole new areas of thought.  How do we see space? How can we imagine space on a plane? Is there more to space than what we see?  How are space and time related?

Today I meant to draw my drawing when I first woke up, and then thought, no I better do some work.  So I did some dishes, some laundry, tried to rid myself of a migraine, and suddenly the time left to do my drawing had disappeared.  I wished that I could erase those moments of hesitation from the morning and just do the drawing then, but now it is now and I can’t.

Hope you enjoy my Time Machine!